What do you get when former Blue Hill at Stone Barns (No. 12) beverage director Thomas Carter pairs with a Uruguay-born chef who has worked with Argentinian grill-master Francis Mallmann and slow food icon Alice Waters, and at Isa and Il Buco? One of New York City’s hottest restaurants. This NoLita gem on East Houston features a relatively compact menu of shareable plates with a largely Mediterranean focus. Chef Ignacio Mattos’ food has been described as simple in appearance while simultaneously strange but right. So perhaps it shouldn’t be a surprise that the advice he gave last year during an interview sounds like that of a culinary pioneer: do your own thing, undersell and overdeliver, stop overthinking everything, and drop acid. Okay, so he meant citrus and vinegar, but some of his philosophy does run counter to many current trends: ignore the seasons, cook the familiar, lose the tweezers, and win with bread. The execution at Estela won’t disappoint. Some of the chef’s most heralded dishes are his beef tartare with sunchoke and his mussels escabeche. For something heartier, try the pork with charred leeks and wheatberries or steak with creamed spinach. And you probably won’t want to miss the burrata with salsa verde and charred bread and the endive with walnuts, anchovy, and Ubriaco Rosso, which is what President Obama and his wife ordered on their visit in late 2014. Just don’t forget your credit card like he did. The wines can be pricey and the First Lady might not be there to bail you out.
— Arthur Bovino, 101 Best Restaurants, April 1, 2015